In 1967, about one hundred and two years after Charles Dodgson published Alice in Wonderland under the pen name Lewis Carroll, Charles Schulz, the author of the popular comic strip Peanuts, paid homage to Carroll’s character of the Cheshire Cat, through his own character Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s pet beagle.

Although Charles Schulz does draw some other characters from Wonderland (including The Queen of Hearts, White Rabbit, and Humpty Dumpty) his main focus is on the “Cheshire Beagle Trick” (Schulz) that Snoopy adds to his arsenal of improbable talents, including typing, cooking, World War I fighter-piloting, and playing tennis. Notably, he also made his owner Charlie Brown disappear, and, eventually, reappear in the 1981 television special “It’s Magic, Charlie Brown!”

This might serve both as a way to add to Snoopy’s aura as a supernaturally gifted dog, and as a way through which Schulz could experiment with drawing less and less of Snoopy as he kept disappearing. In this way, it allows for a reimagining of drawing and comics, letting readers explore what a beloved character might look like, and how he might keep his essence, when stripped of all recognizable traits.

Snoopy can also be cagey with the kids in Peanuts, in a similar way to the Cheshire Cat’s behavior with Alice. He may seem to be all-knowing, but at times is unhelpful in pointing other characters in the right direction, physically or metaphorically.

Just last year the Schulz Museum in Santa Monica, California, had an exhibit, titled Peanuts in Wonderland, focusing on these comic strips and Schulz’s admiration of Alice in Wonderland. Some of these strips were also adapted in “Peppermint Patty’s School Days”, a 1985 television episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show.


Links to Peanuts Comic Strips featuring the “Cheshire Beagle”, all by Charles Schulz and copyrighted by United Features Syndicate Inc.:


Works Cited:

  1. Schulz, Charles. United Features Syndicate Inc.: Peanuts comic strip from January 9, 1977.



“Tennel Cheshire proof” by John Tenniel – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons –


Mirrors in art and literature often have very diverse meanings and interpretations. In class we discussed the way in which the portrait of Dorian Gray might be interpreted to function as a mirror, reflecting the unrestrained truth of Dorian’s soul. However, we also talked about how mirrors themselves don’t show the truth but instead show only reflections. What we see when we look into a mirror is not what others see when they look at us, but a flipped version of reality. Mirrors do not show truth, but merely an echo of what is.

The Mirror of Erised, from Harry Potter, is said to show the true desire of the person who gazes into it and takes the question of mirrors as revealing truth even farther. The engraving on the frame of the mirror, when read backwards (with adjusted spacing), states “I show not your face but your hearts desire.” When Harry Potter looked in the Mirror, he saw himself surrounded by family, his parents and other relatives, none of whom he had ever seen before but who he saw and identified as family. Ron Weasley saw himself as Quidditch Captain, having won the Cup, and as Head Boy. Neither of these things were truth, Harry’s family was dead, and each individual sees something different, a person is unable to see anyone else’s reflected desires. The Mirror essentially fails as a mirror, not reflecting what is but instead what is desired. Like with Dorian Gray’s portrait showing the truth of his soul, the Mirror claims to show the truth of the heart.

The Mirror of Erised

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

However, according to Dumbledore, the Mirror shows neither truth nor knowledge and is in fact very dangerous. The Mirror is only able to show what the viewer most wishes and even then can only give the illusion of the desired.

“It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you. Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone, the best of all of them. However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible.” – Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 157)

The Mirror is dangerous in the same way the Resurrection Stone, one of the Hallows from the 7th book, is dangerous. Both can only create shadows of desire and life. The Stone can conjure a shade of the dead but it cannot return them to life. The Mirror can reflect desire but there is no truth to the reflection. The story of the Hallows tells the danger of the Stone, the second brother going mad with grief, able to see a shadow of the woman he loved but knowing they were separated still, killing himself so that he could be with his dead love who the Stone could not truly bring back. Dumbledore tells Harry of the similar danger of the Mirror, that people have gone mad sitting in front of it, enticed by the reflection of a desire that is nothing more than a shadow and which, for those like Harry, can never be more than that.

Dorian Gray believes that his portrait brings understanding, that each time he views the portrait he learns something of who he truly is. Ultimately this drives him mad. The Mirror of Erised offers no such understanding, but a similar madness. The Mirror shows an echo, not of what is but of what is desired, offering nothing more than lure it can never satisfy.

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling

Posted by: vouto22v | December 20, 2015

Appearance yet again…

So, it has been a while since we covered Bleak House by Charles Dickens, but while looking through the blog and seeing all these things about portraitures, reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and thinking about mirrors, it just made me exceptionally aware of the role of appearance in Bleak House.  At first, I considered the female characters because they are the ones who vocalize the aspects of appearance when speaking to each other, such as Esther towards Ada Clare.  Although, the narrator is guilty of this as well.

-Lady Dedlock: beautiful, haughty, MAJOR secret

-Ester: pretty, kind, loses her looks to illness

-Ada Clare: prettiest girl and Esther’s best friend (and Esther always makes some comment about her looks)

-Caddy: skinny, ink-covered, not the prettiest

…and the list goes on and on.  So many of the female characters in this novel are defined by their physical descriptions, and the level of their beauty seems to correlate to the level of positive or negative emotion that they display.  For example, Lady Dedlock is always considered beautiful and guarded, but she consistently hides her darker emotions and thought/memories.  Caddy is not considered beautiful, and she lets her sadder and angrier emotions be seen much more than some of the other women.

The connection between appearance and mood/energy/outcome is so prevalent in this book, however, contrary to what I initially focused on, I realized I was excluding many other instances of this connection.  The city even has this connection because it is so fog-filled, as well as secret-filled.  This type of connection is in so many other works as well (i.e. the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the gaze of A Flower Girl” in Doré’s London, etc.)  Is it a method of foreshadowing?

Dickens, Charles, and Terry Eagleton. Bleak House. Ed. Nicola Bradbury. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.

Posted by: vouto22v | December 19, 2015

A Lesson in Moderation _ Alice in Wonderland

Alice, from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, has issues with obediently following strange directions.  Whether it is in regards to follow odd directions from a crazy queen or if it is consuming an unknown substance, Alice tends to end up in unhappy situations…until she learns the concept of moderation.  As seen by Alice’s little rant to herself as she falls down the rabbit hole, she is actually a relatively smart child.  Yes,she is trying to sound incredibly intelligent, but she is a little over her head; however, it would not be unreasonable for the reader to assume that she is too smart to eat and drink things that she has no reason to trust.

After she is still alive and well despite her questionable actions regarding stranger danger and unidentified food, Alice learns to alter the amount of things she does.  She learns when to talk and when to be quiet, how much to eat and drink, and most importantly when she has had enough of Wonderland.

This moderation is so applicable to the amount of childhood girls were allowed to have in the Victorian period, as well as to the amount of everything else that women were allowed.  For instance, when discussing the domestic sphere, girls, such as Ellen Terry, were eligible for marriage and motherhood at an extremely young age.  They were allowed approximately ten-fifteen years of childhood and then that’s it.  They are only allowed a minimal amount of sexual encounters, as long as it is within the parameters of an appropriate marriage.  They are allowed a few children, as long as there is an heir.  These issues of too much regulation could be seen as a reason why Wonderland is a world of madness.  This issue of moderation, however, has now become self imposed.

Children today have gone to the other extreme.  Dating and acting in a rather scandalous way at younger and younger ages, drinking and using illicit substances at those same ages, and not taking the time to enjoy the innocence of childhood.  Social media aggravates this new trend.

So it seems that the little and confined Alice has become large and uncontrollable.  Where is the middle ground between the socially approved, strictly refined homemakers of the Victorian era and the wild, but popular, party animals of the 21st century? There needs to be a lesson in moderation.

Carroll, Lewis, and Martin Gardner. The Annotated Alice: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass. New York: Norton, 1999. Print.

Posted by: vouto22v | December 19, 2015

The Fairy tale of Dorian Gray


The lesson in The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is a timeless message that is seen in many children’s stories, such as the classic fairy tales.  It is a message of “Beauty is Only Skin Deep.”  Notice how the apparently beautiful Queen from Snow White is really a ragged old witch, which is shown by her reflection (her inner picture as it were), but the hideous Beast from Beauty and the Beast is smiling in adoration at the woman he loves when he is supposedly not capable of loving someone other than himself.  Wilde’s Dorian Gray begins as a handsome man, as many villains do, but his image is transformed by his inner wickedness.  His obsession with beauty leads to his loss of it.

Is this message about beauty and appearance really about vanity? Much like how Dorian indirectly destroys his image through his evil deeds, the Beast rips through the canvas of a painting depicting his once handsome face.  He does this possibly in response to his hopelessness that “[no one] could learn to love a beast.”  Subsequently, the idea that inner beauty is what counts can be a message of hope and, alternately, that of a warning…Worthy people will accept you for your inner beauty (so don’t be afraid), and that inner beauty will always reflect your true self (so be cautious).  This concept of who is able to see, not your image, but your real identity and value, is central to the plot of Wilde’s book.

The Victorian period is grounded in the concept of purity and morality.  Ironically enough, Oscar Wilde was not included among the ranks of the moral.  Like Dorian Gray’s picture reflects his true inner demons, is this book Wilde’s way of expressing his own malcontent with his reputation?  This cautionary fairy tale is one that has been taught to children and adults throughout many decades, if not centuries.  Clearly, the idea that you will always see yourself as you truly are at some point in your life was and still is a troubling thought.

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Charlottesville, Va.: U of Virginia Library, 1993. Print.


The art of poetry often elicits a mental visual more complex and seductive than any concrete image, however, one of the few exceptions may be Indian paintings.  “Aesthetic Worlds of the Romantic Heroine in Indian Painting & Poetry”was a talk given by Columbia University Professor Allison Busch and The City College of New York Professor Molly Emma Aitken at Mount Holyoke.  Because this discussion focused on “India’s preoccupation with the musicality between text and image,” language was a central idea in terms of art.  In fact, Professor Aitken declared that “Words are full of visuality.”  This visuality translates the concept that the discussion revolved around: Indian love is special with its own flavor.

After walking into Gamble Auditorium, it became clear that the audience was somehow all connected in someway.  There was a camaraderie between the people seated there, waiting to hear the presenters.  This was reflected in the friendship of the two professors.  Aitken and Busch shared the role of the presenter in a flawless and charming way.  When one was speaking, the other contributed with colorful bursts of humor and helpful side notes.  Unlike other art-based events, this was more of an interaction with the audience.  The presenters engaged the crowd in a thoughtful way, and they not only encouraged the audience to participate in their lecture, but they taught the crowd important words in multiple languages that became relevant to the art that was being displayed and discussed.

This lecture focused heavily upon the features of the female body.  It discussed, not only physical aspects, but also abstract demeanor like sly glances exchanged between an interested suitor and a coy woman, as well as the lyrical beauty that these motions and airs inspired.  The words that were taught to the audience mirrored this.  These words, such as  “śṛṅgāra,” which means “erotic sentiment” in Sanskrit emphasize the inherent desires and forbidden romance found within Indian poetry and painting.  Furthermore, not only does this type of art accentuate the female body, it portrays what the culture believed to be the “iconic woman.”  This woman, unlike the women we have read about in Victorian Literature and Visual Culture, in order to be considered iconic, must be innocent, but also skillful, coquettish, and completely stunning.  Instead of being ideal as a maiden, this woman is ideal as a possible lover and seductress.  The appeal does not lie in what is present, but in what is subtle, aromatic, and an enigma.

The main artist that was discussed during this lecture was Abd al-Rahim.  He was a poet that brought to life many of the features that are present in depictions of subjectively beautiful women.  He created “the Bather,” who is consistently seen stretching her arms above her head, playing a musical instrument, serving food, or as a mother.  These different roles are repeated throughout different art and seen in works by other artists.

Other than as a mother, however, this woman, who is defined as a heroine, is primarily a sex symbol, a server, and an entertainer.  Although she is romanticized in a number of different ways, the viewer cannot escape the fact that she is relatively subordinate to her make counterpart.  She is there for their well-being, comfort, and pleasure.

“Aesthetic Worlds of the Romantic Heroine in Indian Painting & Poetry” was a fascinating discussion regarding the role of the perfect woman’s image, as well as how her muted sexuality is conveyed to the viewer.  The poetry that is frequently incorporated within the artwork attempts to layer the image with this fantastical sense of viewing an otherworldly, unattainable, yet desirable woman.  Professors Busch and Aitken stress, however, that the depiction of this woman does not represent one person, but represents an idea.  The musical quality and movement of Indian art underlines this abstract concept.

Victorian literature and visual culture compares and contrasts with Indian poetry and painting.  It is both similar and different.  The ideal woman in Victorian literature is not only innocent, but she is continuously chaste.  Even after marriage, she attempts to retain her purity by controlling and suppressing her sexuality.  In contrast with Indian art, her sexuality is not waiting to be awoken at the right time, but forever manageable and hidden.  In both cultures, however, it is interesting to note that women as mothers is a reoccurring interpretation of what is considered attractive.

This lecture integrated multiple ideals, concepts, and mediums of art, but focused on women.  The art of women, the art of their bodies, and the natural versus posed beauty they present is in and of itself another medium.  Due to the dancing and upraised motions of the painted women, they embody this musical quality.  Because of the poetry surrounding their figures, they embody the language.  Indian poetry and painting becomes this physical aesthetic that is illuminated by women.

Posted by: corri23j | December 18, 2015

The First Graphic Novel?

topffer_essaisautographesLast semester, I took Prof. Young’s Graphic Narratives class, and in it we read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. McCloud credits Swiss teacher/author/artist Rodolphe Töpffer with inventing the genre of comics and graphic narrative, with the publication of the first of his eight illustrated books in 1837. At first, he resisted publishing his doodles, but once he did they became instantly popular among all ages and classes, both in Europe and America.


All of his works satirize 19th century society in one form or another, pairing spontaneous, scratchy doodles with humorous and absurd situations that mock some form of sociopolitical issues topical to the Victorian era. Their intended audience was originally the educated elite, and many of the scenes and protagonists reflect this.


I think it’s interesting to compare the political cartoons we’ve looked at in class with Töpffer’s work. Because of the sequential nature of these comics, narratives and characters are allowed to develop and proceed through a continuous story, creating a more nuanced satirical structure that is lost in single-paneled cartoons or caricatures.



Kunzle, David. Father of the Comic Strip: Rodolphe Töpffer. Jackson: U of Mississippi, 2007. Print.

Posted by: avila22a | December 17, 2015

From Pretty English Girls to Kim Kardashian


During the Victorian era, women were often portrayed as delicate and primarily maternal rarely finding a need to leave the house. However, one woman blazed the trail by becoming the first salaried journalist in England and author of over 20 novels: Eliza Lynn Linton.


Before any feminists rejoice, it should be noted that many of her articles took an anti-feminist perspective. Her best-known piece was “The Girl of the Period” in which she attacks “The New Woman” as the educated and ambitious feminist. Linton pits “the girl of the period” against the traditional “fair young English girl.” The latter the definition of purity and dignity, the former the bane of a man’s existence. Linton explains that “the girl of the period does not please men,” and her article suggests that women started doing things for themselves such as dye their hair unnatural colors and wear makeup as a form of self-expression. Linton even said in her personal life, “I would rather have been the wife of a great man, or the mother of a hero, than what I am, famous in my own person.”


Eliza Lynn Linton condemns the modern woman for not conceding to her male counterpart and not taking on the docile visual representation allotted to her. Similarly, artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti created an idealized version of women throughout his works. Rossetti formulated a certain aestheticism in the women he painted: blonde, thin, white, and graceful. He viewed women as heavenly creatures who were visions of stateliness and chastity, much like Eliza Lynn Linton. As evident from his paintings, Rossetti’s women are all unnaturally beautiful and somehow chaste.

Though we claim to live in an ultra-feminist period, it is hard not to draw comparisons from the Victorian era to today. In fact, it is easy to pinpoint one woman who could be the pinnacle of “the girl of the period”: Kim Kardashian. Kim was relatively unknown before her sex tape was leaked without her permission. Her personal life was put out for the world to see and she was the one left to do damage control, not Ray J. However, she was able to turn a non-consensual event into a $53 million dollar fortune. It is easy to disapprove of her and her family’s televised life, but she has shown herself to be business-savvy (she made $85 million off her iPhone game.) Despite her intellectual capacity, we mostly see Kardashian on the covers of magazines such as Playboy and Rolling Stone. She has capitalized on her sexuality, shamelessly owning it. She transcends the backside expectations of chastity and is paving the way for a new type of girl: the one who can survive a humiliating burst into public and make herself more relevant than the guy who leaked it. Unlike Linton wanted, she is not famous for being the accessory of a great man. She is famous in her own person and how she defines that is her own choice.

Posted by: wiber22m | December 17, 2015

The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships and “Sadness”

When we discussed the photography of Julia Margaret Cameron in class, I was struck by the photograph “Sadness” because of how Hellenistic it is. After learning about the subject of the photograph, Ellen Terry, I couldn’t help but consider how much this photograph made me think of Helen of Troy herself, because of the combination of the context and composition of the photograph.



“Sadness” by Julia Margaret Cameron


Cameron took this photograph when Terry was on her honeymoon, after marrying George Frederic Watts at age 16, who was 30 years her senior. Their marriage was purportedly an unhappy one, which eventually ended in divorce. Terry, a famous actress, very well may have simply been acting for the photograph but even so her expression certainly captures a feeling of sadness.


The visibility of the walls in the photograph lend themselves to a feeling of confinement, as does Terry’s position leaning against one of them. Her state of dress give a feeling of vulnerability, which only amplifies the feeling that the subject is in some way captive.


Similarly to the feeling of confinement in the photograph, sources are unclear on Helen. In some accounts she was kidnapped by Paris and physically held prisoner while in others she was trapped in her marriage to Menelaus. Helen was considered to have been quite young during the events of the Trojan War (and as such her marriage and kidnapping, which were precursory events) making Terry a fitting shadow of the captive queen.


Whether imprisoned through marriage or actual physical confinement, Terry is the picture of Helen, beautiful and trapped.

Posted by: shannonp11 | December 16, 2015

Francesca Woodman: The Disappearing Self


Upon first discovering Francesca Woodman’s work, I became instantly fascinated by the sense of unease and nearly incomprehensible energy it evoked.

Amongst many things, I find it particularly fascinating how, even through the intentional depiction of herself, Woodman often made a constant effort to obscure herself, using long exposure times and constant motion — two factors that were often “enemies” of early photography — to create images that are quite ghostly. In a short piece written recently on the work of Woodman for the New Yorker, it is stated how “Woodman’s subject is less the known self than some shape-shifting remnant”.


If we can see self portraiture as the attempt to convey a truth about oneself, I see the self portraiture of Woodman as an attempt to convey the complication of trying to condense oneself to a single frame. At the beginning of the semester, we discussed portraiture as a way of conveying the self to the world in a favorable light, one that would articulate social status and knowledge amongst other things. In her photographs, Woodman includes things that seem to be completely separate from herself — a seemingly abandoned location, objects that behave more like found remnants than personal items — factors that diverge from what is usually expected when thinking of depicting the self.


“Self-portrait at 13” 1972

It also worth noting that many of Woodman’s photographs seem as if they were taken in the fragments of time just before or after the optimal or desired moment. This notion of capturing otherwise overlooked moments caused me to rethink self portraiture all together. Perhaps these moments when the physical form of the self fades into something that is almost illegible or finds itself in a state that is neither here nor there is closer to depicting the true self than one would think.


Works Cited:



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